During my sophomore year, I took a class called "Women's Voices?" to fulfill a literature requirement. Though a tough class, I remember thinking throughout the course, "Wow. I really like this stuff. Talking about women and their place in Irish poetry and through Irish history is really fascinating."
Little did I know that class planted the seed that later grew into my declaration of a gender studies primary major. I remember sitting in Pam Butler's office saying, "I want to work with people, listen to their stories, and better know how to help them," and I remember Pam saying back, "Plus, everyone's got a gender, so why not study it?"
The most thrilling part of my gender studies education is that I am genuinely excited to scour the course list and sign up for classes each semester. Each class I engage with provides more and more evidence that gender and intersectionality is truly everywhere, and we do ourselves a disservice by not exploring how it impacts our lives and the lives of those around us.
Gender studies has made me a more intentional person. It has given me skills to reach beyond a surface level understanding of human experience and ask important questions about how my own experience fits into the larger world around me. My education has fueled my passion for connecting with others, challenging the status quo, and celebrating the humanity of each person.
This past summer I was fortunate to be a recipient of The Boehnen Fund for Excellence in Gender Studies Summer Internship Grant. This grant allowed me to work an unpaid internship in a non-profit mental health clinic. Throughout the summer, I worked with clients who were confronting substance abuse and addiction. Without my gender studies education, I would have been focused on the best evidence-based treatments and interventions. With my gender studies education, I was focused on the best evidence-based treatments and interventions, and I was focused on who was falling through the cracks of our community treatment center and what barriers to treatment weren't being addressed. I was more aware of the challenges some of our clients faced due to their social location, and I was better able to identify and advocate for their needs.
Studying gender studies has entirely wrecked my perspectives on life and my ways of thinking in the best way possible. It has challenged me to step outside of myself and my own experiences. I am excited to take this knowledge with me as I pursue a future in social work (maybe, probably, but the possibilities are endless) after graduation. I know that gender studies has armed me with the tools necessary to not only serve those on the margins, but also challenge the systems of power that keep them there.